With information about apartment communities readily available on mobile phones, prospective residents are savvier than ever when shopping for a new place to live. Technology has enabled prospects to research their options before making a purchase decision. This evolution has changed the way that residents shop for apartment communities and has changed the way that multifamily operators attract and market to prospects.
The Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) is the moment between the time when a potential resident has investigated your apartment community and when they decide whether or not to initiate further contact. The decision the prospect ultimately makes depends a lot on your staff having the right information, at the right time and for the right customer. Being top-of-mind in those crucial moments can make the difference between a prospect leasing from you or moving on to a competing apartment community.
Why Does the ZMOT Matter?
The ZMOT matters because the way that potential residents look for apartment communities has changed. Prospective residents read online reviews of an apartment community, review social media sites and visit the community’s website. Converting a prospect’s research into a viable lead and ultimately a signed lease means delivering these essential components in the ZMOT:
- Connect with prospects when they want, with the answers to their questions and furnish the information in a way that increases the likelihood of a qualified lead. Prospects want to have access to your apartment community online through your website and social media. They want to be able to email with a question, and they want to have the option to call and communicate with a live person. Your apartment community must be prepared for all three paths.
- Take actions that correspond to the prospect’s expectations. If a prospect asks about a two-bedroom unit, and your apartment community doesn’t have one available, suggesting they tour a studio apartment is not listening to the customer’s needs. This approach alienates customers and pushes you further away from the desired outcome of turning the lead into a lease. When a prospect has a specific inquiry, make sure that you provide that information, whether the request is over the phone or in person.
- Connect the appropriate messaging to the overall leasing experience. To craft the right message, you have to have accurate, detailed lead-to-lease data provided in real-time. This data helps identify the leads that are most likely to lease and encourages a focus on taking the right action at the right time with qualified leads.
3 Key Ways to Win More Leases in the ZMOT
Winning more leases in the ZMOT requires planning and preparation for the market that your apartment community is appealing to and it means shoring up in-house systems and procedures that help improve your customer management processes. Here are three ways that your community can succeed in the ZMOT.
- Leverage a contact center. While potential residents begin research on mobile phones, if there is information needed that is not available online, they will call the leasing office. If your on-site staff is gone for the day or is busy helping other customers, who answers the phones? Is it an answering service that will only take a message? Leaving a prospective lead in an ambiguous haze of “will I get a return call or not” is risky. Partner with an outside contact center that employs knowledgeable representatives that can give the correct information, qualify the lead and help the prospect through the leasing process. If you don’t have a contact center, get one.
~ Tip: Avoid using a sales script. Potential residents want answers, not a crafted sales script that doesn’t address their needs. Listen carefully to what they are looking for in their next apartment home and remember that while floor plans may look the same, no two apartments are exactly alike, and ultimately neighborhood factors are the leading driver of leasing decisions. Confirm you have the multifamily technology in place to guide the prospect in the right direction. In the ZMOT, you will not receive a second chance to respond to a prospect and effect a good impression.
- Implement a prospect-centric CRM. Utilize a marketing and sales automated platform that creates relevant and timely communications for potential residents.
~ Tip: Implement a lead nurturing process. When a prospective resident has expressed interest, it’s important to send them the right message at the right time. If they have time until they are ready to move, send them emails when new apartment homes become available. You can also send them information about the apartment community so when they are primed to make a move, your property will be top of mind. Failure to engage with a leasing prospect could mean losing that potential business.
- Make it easy for prospects to take action. Are prospects able to view a video of available units on your website? Can they schedule a tour online? Employing all website capabilities makes it easy for potential residents to take next steps. Taking full advantage of components of your website also presents an additional channel to collect lead information.
~ Tip: Update your apartment community website. A poorly designed website that displays outdated information will not capture a potential resident in the ZMOT. Additionally, not including multiple ways that the leasing staff can be contacted including email and social media will cause you to lose potential customers.
With mobile and online researching and shopping dominating the way that potential residents make decisions, it is imperative to acknowledge prospective residents in the ZMOT. Adopting a new, prospect-centric, customer management process is a shift from previous ways of doing business. However, recognizing prospects that are in the ZMOT is a proactive game plan that increases your opportunity to win more leases and will ultimately drive NOI and increase multifamily portfolio value.